Small Steps to Diversity in a Tech Startup

Technology startups benefit from teams constructed with wide ranging experiences and backgrounds

Posted by Tejus Parikh on August 13, 2015

A team constructed with wide ranging experiences and backgrounds can be much more than the sum of individuals. While I like building teams filled with unique individuals, doing so can be difficult in the homogenous world of early-stage startups. The reasons why this is are numerous (and contentious), but that does not mean it's impossible. These are some of the things that we've found while adding to the diversity at WideAngle.

First, it really helps to be around other technology companies with diverse staff. One of the biggest benefits of being in the Atlanta Ventures family of companies is how every company has a good mix of individuals. This has two major benefits. The first is an expanded network that reaches beyond the traditional talent base for early stage companies. The second is having diversity be normal so that newcomers can focus on pioneering products and markets, instead of demographics.

Another important consideration is that our universities do not graduate a representative portion of females and ethnic minorities into technology fields. Yet this is not the only available talent pool. Over the last year, I've met numerous people that have found their way into technology as a second or third career. Between the free online courses, bootcamps, and community events, many of these people quickly become astonishingly good. Furthermore, the professional skills that they learned in their past lives still apply, which can more than compensate for any technology gaps.

Recruiting for an early technology company is hard work and trying for diversity makes it even harder.

Finally, a company needs to have solid core values and well understood parameters for measuring success. Again, it's human nature to attribute differences in treatment to differences in appearance. To ensure that these attributions are not valid, everybody needs to be held to the same standard with the same expectations. If situations are not dealt with quickly, they will lead to long term disaster. Regular One on Ones can help surface any issues before they become organizational problems and ensure that values are communicated.

Recruiting for an early technology company is hard work and trying for diversity makes it even harder. That does not make the latter less important. A team with different genders, backgrounds, races, skills, and education levels will not only relate better to the customers, but be more rewarding to work with. Strong core values and a true company culture will bind it all together to pave the path to success.

Original image is CC-licensed [original source]

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Tejus Parikh

Tejus is an software developer, now working at large companies. Find out when I write new posts on twitter, via RSS or subscribe to the newsletter: